It smells like fall. Can you smell it? I can smell it.
In this second week of September in Montreal, from time to time, I got a whiff of fall. It smells wonderful. When I smell fall in the air, I can smell the wet leaves, transformed from green to a warmer shade of yellow, orange, or red, on the ground. The air is fresher and crisper compared to the hot and heavy humidity of the summer. I swear, some days I can smell squash or pumpkin too. I cannot explain how or where the scent is coming from, but the scent of fall is definitely in the air.
With the scent of fall in the air, I start to plan all the wonderful dishes I want to prepare with the fruits and veggies of the season. Every day, my plan (in the form of a list) grows, and grows. My mind wanders and my list grows to the point that it cannot be completed in one fall season by little old me. I guess that is expected.
It’s beginning to smell like fall and I have a long list of fall foods to create, but my fridge is still bursting with stone fruits from the summer: peaches, nectarines, and plums. Since fall implies comfort foods, rich and warm, spiced to perfection, I jump to the thought of a spiced custard pie featuring peaches. I think this is a good compromise between summer and fall. In my mind, I picture a pie that features summer fruit nestled in a warm bed of custard, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. The best of both worlds, in my opinion.
I scour the internet for a recipe for this dessert. I finally go back to a source of all sorts of comfort foods: The Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary edition to be exact. This edition opens with a letter from Julia Child. I have a feeling that if Julia Child wrote a letter praising this tome, a recipe pulled from its pages will not fail me.
Here is what I did. I started with an all-butter crust from Smitten Kitchen. I had tested this recipe once before, but rolled the dough out too thin as I was ambitiously trying to get three crusts out of this double-crust recipe. The finished pies were very, very crispy. This time, I halved the recipe, and rolled the dough thicker, maybe a 1/4-inch thick. The halved recipe gave me just the right amount of crust to fill a 9-inch pie plate. I blind-baked the crust for about 15 minutes at 425°F with a sheet of parchment and the bottom of a tart pan to weigh it down, then for another 5 minutes at the same temperature. At that point, the crusts were quite golden. I let it cool on a rack.
When the pie shell was cooled enough, I brushed some egg yolk at the bottom. I guess this seals it so that it doesn’t get soggy with the fruits and custard. I sliced the peaches and arranged them “artistically” at the bottom of the crust.
I prepared the filling using the recipe for the open-faced peach custard pie on page 679. As I prepare the custard, I am happy, so I gaily pour the vanilla into the custard. Oops! I put about a tablespoon instead of the 1/2 teaspoon that was called for. The custard is brown. Sadness, although I love the aroma: So intoxicating and sweet. I continue. I opted for 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and a generous 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg.
I baked it according to the Joy’s directions, first at 400°F for 10 minutes, then reducing the temperature to 300°F. I baked it for another 45 minutes at the reduced temperature (instead of the 60 minutes the recipe called for).
I sampled a slice when it was still warm. The custard is luscious and comforting. This pie is definitely a nice dessert as fall creeps into my kitchen.
As for my verdict on the crust: This crust is delightfully flaky. I would say that the difference between this all butter crust, and the all butter crust with vinegar would be that the pastry flakes for crust prepared with only water are crisper, while the flakes for the crust with vinegar are more tender and cookie-like. They are both very flaky, which is exactly what we all strive for in pie-making. I cannot decide which I prefer at this point. They are actually quite different. I will ponder and debate the point over another slice.
Spiced custard and peach pie
- 1 pre-baked 9-inch pie shell brushed with egg yolk
- 3 large peaches sliced
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg heaping
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Arrange the peaches at the bottom of the pie shell.
- Whisk all the ingredients together.
- Pour into a pre-baked 9-inch pie shell.
- Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature for another 45 minutes, or until the filling is set, even in the middle.
- Serve warm.